Tech_DELTA Release 06

Monday, June 05 2006 @ 09:42 AM EDT

Contributed by: jwitte

MySpace has been used for a variety of different reasons from posting personal information (creating an online profile) to dating and even for musical artists to promote their group. Now, MySpace is being used for a completely different purpose.

--Jennifer Turchi and Jim Witte

Warren St. John of The New York Times has uncovered a new phenomenon within MySpace that has a sad (yet can be moving) story.

One of the worst tragedies is when young people are taken from this earth too soon. Given how popular online social network sites are among young people, it should come as no surprise that Fate has struck down some young people who have created profiles in networking communities like MySpace. But what happens to the profiles once they have died? MySpace doesn’t take down the space due to inactivity; therefore the space is often left up. And that’s okay. Friends of those who have died are using the space as a release; a way to continue to feel connected and communicate to the lost loved one. Parents are using the space as a way to “learn more about their children” once they are gone. They are also using the space as a way to keep in touch with their children and their children’s friends. However, at times it can be overwhelming for the parents and families of those who have died. Some families report an increased pressure to carry the grief of friends as well as family and their own. All in all though, families use their children’s MySpace profiles for positive experiences that help with the grief of loosing a child and keeping in touch with those who are mourning as well.

With all of the reasons why Americans tend to get online, including the one mentioned above, individuals might assume the U.S. is leading the world in Internet subscriptions. However this is not the case; the U.S. is not even close to being number one. According to Leila Abboud of The Wall Street Journal, on April 12, the United States is actually ranked 12th among developed nations. Some officials are blaming it on population density. However, countries with lower population densities (such as Norway, Sweden, and Iceland) still had a higher number of individuals surfing the net at high speeds. Another likely explanation for countries ranked higher than the U.S., such as Korea, are policies in those countries that allow their governments to build “communication infrastructures as they would a public utility like highways or airports” (B2).

Another topic about the Internet lately is privacy of website owners and operators? William Bulkeley for The Wall Street Journal, reports that possible changes in Whois policies (within Icann) could change the way big companies and the government fight fraudulent websites. Currently Whois requires that every individual that creates a website provide information such as a name, phone number and address. This allows Whois to contact that individual in order to resolve technical problems and administrative issues. Companies such as Ebay, the Red Cross and even (one of us says not "and even" but "of course") the U.S. government have found other ways to use Whois. These organizations use the lists from Whois in order to capture and punish those who are illegally using company or organization names for their own sites for profit. However, website holders are now worried about identity theft. With such private information attached to websites, those who run the sites constantly worry about the possibility of information being stolen. The proposed new policy would restrict disclosure of personal information (such as phone numbers and addresses). According to Marc Rotenberg, this is a vast improvement in security for individuals such as bloggers. Either way it is a very delicate issue because Icann is not governmentally operated, yet this matter touches on topics that could have political repercussions (April 27, B1).

Parents have also found a way to keep track of what their children are posting on the Internet and personal sites, like MySpace profiles, but now parents can keep an even closer eye on their kids. Phone companies are offering families services that allow parents to text their children’s phone and receive back a location of that child’s cell phone. This “extra security”, as a lot of parents see it, comes with a price. Families will have to buy the phones that have the location devices in them (which run about $85) and the service from the phone company such as Sprint Nextel or Verizon (which runs about $9.99/month). The thing to remember though is this only works as long as the phone is actually with the child (Li Yuan, The Wall Street Journal, April 27, D1).

Finally, a new company in California, Obopay Inc., has come up with a method to make paying for things such as meals, clothes, and coffee, etc more convenient. It’s called “text-payment”. People can actually walk in to a store, decide to get something, walk up to the cash register, pull out their cell phone, and text the payment to the store. Most who are using this service are impressed with the ease and convenience of it, where most of the business is in Europe and Asia. So why hasn’t this technology taken off in the U.S? There are several reasons. The first is that it would require retailers to acquire “special payment terminals” and cell phone users to buy special phones. Another reason is the service requires users to surrender personal financial information. So the glaring concern is security. Finally, just as with any convenience, this one is not free. There are fees connected to each transaction. Right now the going rate seems to hover around 10 cents per transaction. For those who use the service, they say it isn’t much for the trade off of convenience. I say, is America becoming so engrossed in their technology that simple cash doesn’t even suffice anymore? Just food for thought (Mylene Mangalindan and Jessica Vascellaro, The Wall Street Journal, April 26, D1).